What Does an Author Assistant Actually Do?

Publishing Tips - What Does an Author Assistant Actually Do

Guest post by Mel Jolly from Author RX

Are you ready to hire an assistant? Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx, says one of her biggest lessons learned in building her business is that you have to be willing to hire out your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and even if you’re good at most things, not having enough TIME to do everything can be a problem.

What does an author assistant actually do?

The answer to this question can vary widely from person to person, but in my experience the clients that are the best at utilizing my skillset use me as a project manager. I’m CC’d on the majority of their business emails and I keep up with deadlines, run giveaways, make graphics, write newsletters, schedule social media, update websites, set up speaking events, and even handle some basic accounting.

For the clients with whom I’ve had a long relationship, the majority of what I do requires little to no direction from the client. When I’m involved in all the major areas of their business, I know when it’s time to update the website or send out another newsletter. Keeping everything on schedule is the biggest part of my job.

The best situations are when my clients tell me I keep them out of the loony bin and they don’t know how they survived without me. That’s always nice to hear!

That sounds like a good set up, right? The question is where do you start?

Assess Your Needs

Spend some time tracking what you do each day.  Use a timer and a notebook and track what you do and how long it takes. This might be a little painful, especially if you’re in denial about how much time you think you spend on Facebook versus how much time you actually spend on Facebook.  

For example:

  • Social Media – 30 minutes
  • Answering fan mail – 45 minutes
  • General email – 30 minutes
  • Creating a to-do list – 15 minutes
  • Writing – 1 hour
  • Mailing prizes to giveaway winners – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Working on cover art/searching for stock photos – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Tracking sales data – 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Writing guest blog post – 45 minutes
  • Creating author newsletter – 2 hours
  • Answering blog comments – 15 minutes
  • Website updates – 1 hour

Divide and Conquer

Now that you have your list, divide it into groups. Think about each item and decide if it’s something you can outsource or if it has to be done by you. Tasks like scheduling your social media posts, mailing swag to fans, and sending out your newsletter could all be done by an assistant.

BONUS TIP: If you track how much time it takes you to do each task, this will give you a good idea of how long it will take an assistant to do these tasks for you. This will be extra helpful when it is time create your budget.

Set Goals

Before you even begin to look for a freelancer, it’s important to determine your objective.

  • Are you hiring because the freelancer has skills that you do not?
  • Are you trying to expand your business or are you simply unable to keep up with everything?
  • Are you trying to create more time in your day? If yes, what are you going to use that additional time to do?

Your goals may shift once you start working with someone, but it’s important to pinpoint what you need right now so you can work towards achieving that goal.

Set a Budget

It may sound like a dream come true to have someone else take over a portion of your workload, but don’t forget the financial repercussions. You don’t want to hire an assistant and then realize two months later that you can’t financially sustain the relationship.


Rates of assistants are going to vary widely based on experience and skill set. On average, you can expect to pay $25 – $45/hour. There will be outliers, of course, and a new assistant might not charge as much as someone who’s been working in the industry for years. Keep in mind that a good assistant can accomplish a heck of a lot in only 10 hours a month. And if that’s the case, what could YOU accomplish with an extra 10 hours a month? Is that an extra novella or even an extra book each year?

Finding an Assistant

This part might seem daunting, but I promise it doesn’t have to be painful.

Referrals – Ask your author friends if they work with an assistant or if they know of someone else that does. Personal recommendations are a great place to start.

Check the Loops – If you are on any author loops or discussion groups, run a search for “author’s assistant.” Chances are someone else has already asked for recommendations. If nothing comes up in your search, be the first to ask.

ResourcesAuthor’s Atlas is a free review and ratings site for all the freelancers an author might need and has a significant database of assistants. Author EMS also has an extensive listing of freelancers.

You Can Do It!

Whether you decide to use an Author’s Assistant for 5 hours a month, 30 hours a week or even for a one-time promotional project, I find it difficult to believe you will ever think, “Wow. I wish I didn’t have all this extra time for writing.”

If you have any questions about hiring an Author’s Assistant, feel free to contact me. You can also grab How to Hire an Author’s Assistant: The Quick and Easy Guide as a free download for a limited time at www.AuthorRx.com.

Good luck and stay awesome!

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.